At this point in my life, I have spent more than half of it behind a sound console in at least three different mainstream church environments, all of which were working on a shoestring budget.
And it’s been a blast! I’ve learned a lot and part of what I want to do with more of my time is sharing those experiences and lessons-learned with others.
So here are just 5 that I thought I’d start with:
1. Do Your Best With What You’ve Got
Not every church has the budget to purchase all top-of-the-line audio equipment, and some don’t even realize the positive and negative impact that equipment of varying quality can have on the worship environment, so we have to learn to strive for perfection using what we’re given.
Be resourceful, be creative, and, most of all, be flexible. Part of this is also the understanding that, at some point, you will reach the limits of your abilities and you have to be willing to say, “we just can’t do that.”
2. Be An Expert
You may not have the best equipment, but work as though you do. Know the type of equipment that’s available in the marketplace and understand the industry. Keep up to date on the newest technology and be aware of what’s coming. On the flip side, be an expert on your own equipment as well.
Know the limitations of your pieces so that you are ready for the inevitable (see #1). The most important thing that being an expert enables you to do is troubleshoot.
Having expertise allows you to more quickly recognize, identify, and fix problems with your sound.
3. Quality Over Quantity
This has been my motto for years. In my opinion, the quality (i.e. clarity, balance, etc.) of the sound will always outweigh the quantity (i.e. volume).
The easiest mistake to make is thinking that turning up the volume will enable the listener to hear better. In many instances, in fact, this makes the listening much less enjoyable.
You will be surprised by how much better your performance, speaking, or presentation sounds if you focus on the quality of the sound, first and foremost, before even thinking about how loud it should be.
4. Don’t Be a Button-Pusher (AKA a “Mole-Whacker”)
Psalm 46:10 says:
Be still and know that I am God!
I like to apply that to my work as a sound engineer as well. Don’t think that constantly tweaking and adjusting your channels will result in achieving the best sound possible. Many times we make an adjustment, but immediately change something else without letting the first one have the time to sink in.
Force yourself to step away from the console, move around the room, use your ears, and identify and prioritize the changes that need to be made in the sound. One rule of thumb, though, this should probably take place during rehearsal, and not during worship.
That way, you are more able to simply monitor the sound during the service and free yourself up to worship along with everyone else.
5. Be Able to Deal with “Other” Experts
There will always be someone else in the room who thinks they know what the sound needs to be like, or how to make the proper adjustment in order to achieve perfection. This is not to say that they don’t sometimes know what they’re talking about.
But, unfortunately, many times they don’t really know what changes should be made. There are three tactics that I like to use when dealing with these “other experts.” First is humility. As I said, sometimes they really do hear something that you haven’t heard, and you should make an effort to evaluate that before writing them off. Take the time to see if they have a legitimate complaint. Second is tactfulness.
Don’t just say, “Hey, I’m the expert here. Back off!” Take the time to explain why they might be hearing things the way they are, or even show them why you have it set that way.
Last, but not least, is humor. Be able to laugh at yourself sometimes, and don’t get into an argument about it. The bottom line is, the sound and the music and all those other things don’t really matter. It’s the Gospel that we’re trying to communicate, and if that’s not cutting through, then we’re doing it all wrong.